Planning For Homeless Huts In Flux
According to emergency shelter project leader Erik Johannessen, the impromptu shelters constructed in Wolf Point last week will have to be moved. He said authorities have set a deadline of Nov. 27.
“The [Wolf Point Police Department] and BNSF set [Nov. 27] at noon as the deadline to move the huts,” said Johannessen. “When asked what would happen if they weren’t moved (as in if we didn’t move them by Saturday as I had offered), I was told by the [BNSF public relations person] Maia LaSalle that she wasn’t sure, but probably trespassing charges would be filed.”
At press time, Johannessen said trailers and volunteers had been organized to meet the Wednesday deadline.
The project’s official photographer, Matt Deserly, told the Northern Plains Independent that he got involved to support family members.
“Our family,” he said, “especially Shelica, 15, Wadopana royalty, has wanted to do something for our relatives on the streets and were happy when Erik Johannssen made a move to get it done. While I was waiting for the stars to align and to design the perfect solution for the building and the best spot to place it, Erik made it real with his community organization and fundraising. Granted, it’s not perfect but I believe it will probably save a life.”
Said Shelica, “The homeless are people, too. Maybe they haven’t made the best decisions, so we are here to help them. Winter in Montana inevitably kills the homeless. When I was a little kid, I always wanted to help them because I believed they deserved another chance. I’m thankful we have people in our community like Erik and my uncle Matt.”
According to Johannessen, Wolf Point’s Mary Clelland offered her land near the Sherman Inn for use moving forward. He said that one missing component is bathroom facilities.
“Because of the issue of sanitation,” he said, “a porta pottie will have to be placed there also.”
Johannessen attended at Nov. 21 tribal health committee meeting to request assistance.
At the committee meeting, Fort Peck Tribes chairman Floyd Azure spoke to concerns about enabling addicts in self-destructive behaviors. When asked if the Tribes care about their most vulnerable members facing the cold without shelter, he said the tribes already spend in excess of $19 million per year on services for members. He said that, historically, tribal members perceived to be holding the group back would have been left behind.
“In Sitting Bull’s day,” said Azure, “the tribe would have left them on the prairie.”
Azure reiterated sentiments he’s shared many times at public meetings around the area.
“Everyone knows that they are guilty of enabling addictions every time they hand someone a dollar,” said Azure.
According to TEB member Kaci Wallette, tribal funding has been approved to cover the cost of portable bathroom facilities at shelter sites in Wolf Point and Poplar. Wallette said the estimated cost will be $2,500 to $5,300.
For more information about the project, contact Johannessen at 406-7900597.